The Persona Lab

Speculative Design

My senior thesis investigated the relationships between physical body and virtual persona in the age of ubiquitous computing. I proposed a persona building and tasting experience that gives people an opportunity to re-evaluate their new virtual identities in a future context.

11/20-04/21

Role:

Research

Concept

Modeling

Visual Design

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Living in the age of spectacles, we behave and perceive ourselves in images of others. Advancement of AI has augmented “training” of the “perfect self” to fulfill a societal role, an online persona mediated by algorithms. When this virtual identity becomes the new reality, how should we re-evaluate the relationship between physical body and virtual identity, human and machine? 

The Persona Lab proposes a persona building and tasting experience, where visitors try out and reflect on their new virtual identities through a persona-customized digital interaction dictated by algorithm. Visitors will acquire a receipt of their avatar’s data before leaving and rethink how far personal autonomy goes in their relationships with algorithm-generated identities. After all, could it be that everyone has been living freely in the unfree…
 

Experience user flow

1. Entrance: Vending machine

Visitor can learn about The Persona Lab and retrieve a pair of glasses at the vending machine.

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2. Station one: Persona building

Learn more about the lab experience and avatar creation. Complete a personality test and face+body scan to get a customized digital avatar. Based on the data, a digital avatar that encompasses visitors’ preferences is created, visitors will be able to see the virtual persona's perspective from their glasses.

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3. Station two: Virtual interaction

Visitors can now experience a highly customized digital experience in the avatar’s body. All interactions are calculated and manipulated by the algorithm in real-time, which aim to provide a “personalized” experience dictated by AI to fit into the avatar’s qualities/preferences.

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4. Station three: Persona takeaway

Enter a final station to see how algorithms speculate and dictate the entire avatar experience. Visitor places the glasses on a counter, and will obtain a takeaway box with a persona ticket inside with their “calculated personalities” outlined.

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Research process: define+discover

“The Truman Show” discusses the parallel between reality and illusion in a media-saturated society, to what extent is our life dictated and “branded” by external forces, such as social media without knowing? 

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“The presentation of self in everyday life”

When the public has become the “observer” who influences how someone acts at the “front”, this performer is likely to put on a “mask”, i.e. a “persona”. 

"The age of surveillance capitalism”

 self-identity no longer reflects how “I” feel, but mirrors the audience’s opinions. Thus ubiquitous computing has made the persona-performance analogy a never-ending show

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In a spectacular society, “social relations between among people mediated by images”. Spectacle focuses on appearance, and appearance is governing our life and society.

--Society of Spectacles

People have different "personas" online because they are so concerned of how they appear in the eyes of others.

Ubiquitous computing makes "manufacturing" the "perfect self" easier. When identity could be manufactured in an industrialized process, persona becomes the new reality. 

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Case studies

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Persona engineering process

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Speculation

AI computing and the internet has industrialized persona creation. What if persona becomes a “merchandise” that could be purchased and customized by people to altar self-representation in the future?  

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Develop idea

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